Hepatitis B has affected my father’s side of my family
Hepatitis B has affected my father’s side of my family. My father and three of his siblings had hepatitis B. When I was in high school, my uncle suddenly passed away from liver cancer, without telling anyone in our family because he didn’t want us to worry. I don’t know if he even knew that it was caused by hepatitis B. As a result of my uncle’s passing, my father was screened and diagnosed with liver cancer. He survived for six more years before passing away.
The saddest part is that we could have known much earlier. When my father told his siblings he was diagnosed with hepatitis B and liver cancer, so they in turn could get tested, they had already known of their own hepatitis B status for years. I know part of our culture is to withhold worrisome health information, but it saddens me because earlier treatment for my father could have prevented additional damage to his liver.
Now, my siblings and I talk about hepatitis B openly and we have all gotten tested — all negative. Our generation doesn’t have the same hesitations and stigma as our parents and we want to continue to break down those barriers. I am passionate about hepatitis B prevention and testing and have incorporated my experiences into my career. I understand how a family can be impacted by hepatitis B and the result of stigma on health outcomes.
I’m optimistic about the future of hepatitis B. There has been so much progress in hepatitis B screening, vaccine and treatment options. It seems like continuing to raise awareness to decrease stigma associated with the illness is the path to move in. The fact that hepatitis B can be prevented is a great step forward.
Passing the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA), Title VII: Addressing High Impact Minority Diseases would address the issues Jessica’s story raises, specifically the need for testing education and linkage to care for viral hepatitis — and the entire HEAA legislation is an all encompassing bill that would tackle broader health equity issues impacting the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities, including issues around stigma, social determinants of health, data collection, and maternal and child health.
This was originally published on www.justbcampaign.org.